Backyard Chickens and the City Council

| 1/27/2010 9:59:14 AM

Tags: Chickens, City Council,

A photo of Vickie MorganWhen I went to the city council meeting and I asked about having chickens I thought, Well, I will have my chickens by spring. Really, I thought my work was done. I mean, I got up my nerve and spoke and asked for the chickens, so that should be all I have to do, right? Wrong, nothing is ever quite that easy. When I went to the city council meeting last night, I found out that the next committee meeting that will be dealing with the chicken ordinance will be on February 1. There will be a total of two meetings to get the ordinance passed.

I pretty sure that the subject of having chickens in the backyard will be in the paper as there was a reporter in the audience. I have mixed feelings about this – I’m happy on one hand that the word will get out and more people that want chickens in their backyard will show up and give their support, and, on the other hand, I’m kind of nervous there will be people there also that don’t want their neighbors having chickens. Thanks to your helpful comments on a previous post I was able to get some answers to questions people might have. For instance, I’ve found out that four to five hens only produce as much waste as an average sized dog. Unlike dog and cat waste you are able to add chicken waste to your compost and reuse it in your garden. For even more information on changing city chicken ordinances there here are two websites that have been helpful to me, Chicken Revolution and Changing Your City's Chicken Laws.

About a week ago I was told it would be a good thing to contact my neighbors and find out if anyone else is interested in having chickens. So one bitter cold January evening I bundled up with my big coat, scarf, hat, gloves, and long johns underneath my jeans and walked to some of my neighbors to ask them if they are interested in owning chickens. Shaking from the cold, I started knocking on doors of the neighbors I knew. Most people generally were interested – they would say things like “what a neat idea,” but just as quickly add “but I don’t want to raise any.” Then I finally hit the jackpot, and I got one neighbor who was ready to go and said he would love to come to the meeting. Another neighbor across the street said she would love to have chickens for her granddaughter for educational purposes. The lady next to her said she didn’t want any chickens, but would come to the meeting, just to support me and see what a council meeting was all about. Now, she’s nice.

Have you ever been to a city council or town meeting before? To tell you the truth I haven’t, till I decided I wanted chickens. You might be like me and think, how boring. But they are truly interesting, and you find out all the things that are going on in your area. You get the information before any one else about what streets are going to be paved, rate increases, etc., and you get to have a voice. You get to go up front before the microphone and speak your mind and let the council members know how you feel. That is if you can gather up all your nerves. But you know, now that I’ve been to a couple, I think I might continue to go. I may not get to every one of them, but I am going to go to as many as possible and keep informed about my city. Something I should have done a long time ago.

Now, on to more neighbors, the ones I don’t know by name, and ask them if they would like to keep backyard chickens in the city. I have two weeks … and hopefully some warmer days for knocking on doors.

Something for reading by a nice fire:

10/6/2010 8:49:38 PM

My husband, kids and I just went to our second city council meeting. At the last meeting we brought up possibly changing the ordinance that does not allow chickens. We live in a small, rural, farming community and they are not allowed. We took information reguarding surrounding larger cities that DO allow chickens. They said that they would do some research and discuss it at the next meeting. Well, that was tonight and it was painfully clear that they did little to no research and had already had their minds made up. The main concern was that these little tiny towns don't have the funds or manpower to go around and make sure that people are following the rules. I guess my next step is to take a petition around town and see if anybody else would be interested/okay with allowing chickens in town. Any other suggestions?

8/27/2010 6:44:50 AM

Hi Sheri, Hope you finally get chickens -That's what it takes is momentum and support. We live in Burton MI and the city council couple of months ago voted for chickens! The permit has yet to come out yet but you can have 6 chickens but no roosters if you have a 1/2 acre. If you have less than 1/2 acre you can still go before the council and request to have chickens. Just what we need with this egg recall -people feel so much better knowing where there food comes from. vickie

6/30/2010 3:26:25 PM

Hi, I wondered what city you live in. I live in Roeland Park, Ks. and have just formed a group to help change the codes. I have been working on this for months and months now, but the momentum is picking up and I have more supporters now. The bitter sweet part is, I read the codes to say that hens were perfectly legal, as did some of the city council members and others that read them. The city staff disagreed and so I lost my chickens....for now. I find it so silly that I can't have 6 or 8 hens, but I could legally keep a crocodile up to 2 1/2 feet long or a boa constrictor up to 6 feet long. Strange world.

rodeo princess
2/21/2010 9:53:29 AM

You get more fans with eggs than noise - I would make sure that your neighbors know how good these eggs are! And for the gardeners around you, maybe they would like some finely aged chicken poo tea! Also the number of bugs that they eat totally outweighs any that they attract. I am sure you will be an excellent chicken ambassador. Have you been to Key West? There are chickens all over town there. It was like being at home.

2/3/2010 10:00:30 AM

Shannon, I believe I have a good chance! We can compare chicken pictures! vickie

s.m.r. saia
2/2/2010 2:48:08 PM

Sounds like things are going great! I can't wait till you post your first chicken pictures!

2/1/2010 7:41:03 AM

Colleen, You know we do have a lot of dogs barking in our neighborhood -I'll remember that if that comes up. Thanks vickie

1/31/2010 10:36:02 PM

Vickie, I wish you the best of luck at the Counsil meeting. You know, it boggles my mind how here, in our "free" country, a small group of people can tell you what you can and can't raise or grow at your own home. It's dumbfounding. ...and if they give you the excuse that your hens might make too much noise, remind them of all the dogs who bark all....night....long. Give it to 'em. (but be nice). :)

1/30/2010 9:50:54 PM

Andrew, Thanks for your kind words and support. I do hope other people show up on Monday night in support of backyard chickens -it sounds as though the council is in support and the more people show up like you said the better they will feel about making the decision in our favor. The weekend is slowly dragging by. vickie

1/30/2010 8:48:16 PM

As a journalist with our local newspaper and someone who had to "serve his due dilligence" attending a solid year of city council meetings allow me to impart a little (if seemingly negative) advice. City councils are notoriously fickle folks. They hold positions that are self-important in most cities because they do not have the overall authority to do much. Sure, they make the decisions but they often have little money to work with and are directly regulated by the city manager and planning council. The benefit to this is that they love hearing you talk as much as they love hearing themselves. If you have signed up to address council (provided that is your council's policy) you can really talk as long as you like and for the most part to an attentive audience. You are doing great already and having that extra community support will show the council that you mean business and have take the leg work out of the decision for them. If you can contact your local newspaper and speak to someone that will be sure to cover the proposal the council will be more likely to amend their rules in your benefit. I have seen it happen time and time again. No one wants to be "that guy" and potentially turn a ward against them. Good luck to you and keep us posted!

1/29/2010 1:46:56 PM

Susan, Hopefully I'll know something soon! I've been looking at all the different breeds -I like the thoughts of chickens with a lot of feathers for our cold weather. But who knows? I hope you talk you husband in to getting chickens! Then we can compare notes with Shannon (she is getting chickens this spring too) vickie

1/29/2010 1:45:38 PM

Susan, Hopefully I'll know something soon! I've been looking at all the different breeds -I like the thoughts of chickens with a lot of feathers for our cold weather. But who knows? I hope you talk you husband in to getting chickens! Then we can compare notes with Shannon (she is getting chickens this spring too) vickie

oz girl
1/29/2010 11:46:20 AM

Vickie~ I too applaud your courage and gumption to change your city's chicken ordinance! I won't have to go through all that red tape if I ever decide to get a few chickens. We live in a beautiful rural countryside and we already have the coop... it's just up to me to convince hubby I really want to do this and then just do it! I'll be following along - once you're successful at getting this ordinance passed, I can't wait to see what type of chickens you get and how many! :) Susan

1/29/2010 11:21:05 AM

Thanks Cindy, Your right you go to a meeting about something your interested in and then manage to find out many more things in the process. I really enjoy listening to all the issues within the city. Have a good weekend vickie

cindy murphy
1/29/2010 7:45:09 AM

Mornin' Vickie. I don't plan (or desire) to raise chickens, but think it's wonderful you are taking the initiative to make it possible for you and others to be able to do so in your town. I agree that attending town meetings is a great way to stay informed about what's happening in the community. I've been to a few, usually when topics up for discussion are issues I feel strongly about, but I've always learned more than my initial reasons for attending. Community involvement in these types of meetings results often results in a better living environment for everyone. Again, good luck in your Chicken Quest.

1/29/2010 7:30:19 AM

Thanks Lori, I never did find it in the paper this time so maybe as word gets out I will find even more people like you said. vickie

1/29/2010 6:13:28 AM

Vickie, I applaud you for going through the legal stuff to be able to keep your own chickens. I wish you luck. Who knows how many other people might also be interested if and when it goes through!

1/28/2010 12:26:10 PM

Dave, I know having pets are hard especially when you rearing to go somewhere and have to think about who to care for them. It's funny I always thought if I had chickens I would just have my oldest daughter come by and feed them but guess what- she is afraid of chickens! So it looks like her husband isn't afraid so he will do it for me if I'm able to get them- thank goodness. We also have a cat and dog so it gets complicated when we leave. You have the best of both worlds abundant wildlife to watch and a great garden to care for! vickie

nebraska dave
1/28/2010 11:13:18 AM

Vickie, you might research the ordinances for Kansas City. I read an article a while back about chickens in the city of Kansas City. They are allowed 10 I think, but there are rules about how close they can be to a home. This article was about the struggle with the city council to allow chickens in the city and the grumpy neighbors that didn’t want chickens in the neighborhood. She finally got to have her chickens but I don’t know if she ever calmed down all the neighbors. There always seems to be one that just won’t give it up. I wish you well on your endeavor. I’ve really never had the desire to raise chickens although the more I read about Urban chicken raising the more it seems to be suited for backyard egg!! Production. I’ll just stick to plants. They fair a little better when I’m gone for a week at a time. Animals require a little more attention than once a week. Since those high school days there has only been dogs, a cat, guinea pigs, pet rabbits, and a gerbil as family pets. However they only live long enough to climb in your heart and become family before passing. Now that all the kids are grown and gone and I’m back to being a family of one, the last family pet is gone and I don’t have any plans to get another. My pets are the neighborhood wild animals which take care of themselves while I’m away on trips. To me that’s the best of both worlds. I get to enjoy them when I’m home and don’t have to worry about when I’m gone.

1/27/2010 12:42:21 PM

Thanks for the encouragement Nebraska Dave, I hope it goes through because I would love to have chickens -I love fresh eggs and they sound like a lot of fun to raise. No roosters though we be allowed so hopefully no neighbor complaints. Like you I have this big but loveable dog next door Tanner that I am kind of worried about but we will keep the chickens in their enclosed yard. That's a lot of chickens you helped care for when you were little! I believe the best part too would be eating the eggs! vickie

nebraska dave
1/27/2010 12:18:58 PM

Vickie, chicken raising in town seems to be the Urban Homesteader’s interest these days. I helped Mom raise them, feed them, process them, and even (the best part) eat them. I’ve even cleaned out the poo from the coop. That’s not a nice task especially in the summer from the 30 or so chickens we had. Those old bity hens can have a mean scary peck for a young lad of 7 or 8. I learned to just stick my hand in the nest and get it over with. The peck really didn’t hurt all that much but they did it so fast with fluffed up feathers it just seemed it was going to be worse than it was. It seems that the issue with raising chickens in the city all boils down to how well it’s excepted in the neighborhood. That rooster crowing at sunrise can definitely turn even the best of neighbors against you even if it is legal. Next door to me reside two big Sheppard dogs that police their yard and mine against anything that walks, crawls, hops, or flies. For me to have chickens (not that I really want any) would be all out torture for those dogs to try to protect my yard though the chain link fence. It would mean all out conflict between the animals of the neighborhood. I expect even rabbit raising would be an issue in this neighborhood. I would be one that’s certainly OK with chickens in the neighborhood, but probably wouldn’t really want any as I only consume a dozen eggs over the course of a month. I applaud you for the courage to change what needs corrected.

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